Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

The Savage Beatings Anti-Pattern

Monday, October 1st, 2012
CSSquirrel #102: The Savage Beatings Anti-Pattern

Just so we’re clear, in no way do I think that Jeremy Keith (one of today’s guest stars) would actually do any violence to Michael Sippey (the other guest star) or any other person in real life. I do, however, share Jeremy’s well documented rancor about the email notification anti-pattern. Which, among many other shameful companies, Twitter is notorious for its participation.

For those precious few of you who haven’t been victims of it, the anti-pattern in question is as follows:

  1. A site creates a new notification/email/spam.
  2. An option is created for their existing users to sign up for this further bloat to their in-boxes.
  3. As a “convenience”, it is set to “yes” by default.
  4. If for some reason (Heaven forfend!) you don’t like spam, you must then follow a link to their site, log INTO said site, and then un-click the offending “Yes” that’s on an item labeled something patently false like “Emails You’ll Really Want”.

This isn’t a customer service. They know it. And we know it. It’s force-feeding end users in the desperate hopes of squeezing extra profits out of our bloated corpses.

So what do we do about it?

I’m going to suggest we follow Jeremy’s advice.

Document (aka, blog) the situations when they occur, so there’s a greater awareness for new startups entering the space that this type of interaction and marketing is unwanted and hostile to users.

We probably shouldn’t threaten them with bats, but I suggest communicating directly with offenders. They may not change from one voice, or ten, or a hundred. But if enough people complain, maybe they’ll get the picture.

Also, participate in efforts to proactively communicate what web patterns suck, such as pointing people to Harry Brignull’s Dark Pattern Wiki (which doesn’t currently have this anti-pattern listed on it, but certainly should.)

Those are the best ideas I’ve got. Documentation, mockery, notification and education.

Got your own? Let me know via one of the response methods below. Or, heck, if you actually like being signed up for spam without your prior consent, please let me know. You’re likely the last of your kind and belong in a museum.

Comments Versus Conversation

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I finally followed up on an idea I’ve been considering for some time now, and disabled comments on the blog.

It started as a temporary response to the typical spambot uprising that occasionally overwhelms spam filters and defeats CAPTCHAs. Then, after I had fixed the underlying problems, I chose to leave them off. Possibly for good.

I’m no trailblazer. Jeremy Keith’s Adactio has virtually never had comments enabled. Happy Cog’s Cognition blog’s comment system is a combination of Twitter and blog replies. There’s plenty of other examples out there.

There’s a place for blog commentary in 2012. But more increasingly, I feel like the level of social engagement we have on the Internet has reduced the need to rely on such a system for a conversation. Because that’s what comments are. Conversation.

I’m talking on Twitter every day, for example, where I see people constantly discussing blog posts that are relevant to their interests. In fact, that’s the main method by which I discover interesting blog posts to read. (All of which makes the recently-announced Twitter API changes a bit alarming for me.) Many of those blog posts that I end up reading are written in response to other blog posts, long-form, well considered replies to other people’s words on other sites.

It doesn’t help my opinion of blog comments systems that they seem to be home to a particularly vitriolic breed of Internet nastiness. Look at YouTube or any contentions tech blog post’s comments to see perfect examples of what I’m discussing. Even with some form of registration system, on-site comments provide a great deal of anonymity.

Anonymity + opinion = jerk.

And although I support anonymity in general, I really don’t care for it much when it’s used as a cover for juvenile hostility.

By forcing the conversation off the comments section and into people’s own social networks or blogs, you’re attaching an identity to the voice. And I’ve found, in general, when people are having to stand by their words then the quality of those words improve.

Finally, when it comes to my daily patterns, the fact is that I don’t spend a lot of time checking on my published posts to see if a comment has arrived. I do, however, check Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis. Even if I didn’t, my smartphone’s apps will dutifully push any mentions to my attention. As an online communicator I have specific channels that I favor over others, and as a result they see more of my focus and time than others. In this world of attention span issues it’s probably best to play to one’s strengths.

For now, and for the foreseeable future, the comments are going to stay off. I don’t think in 2012 that this is particularly shocking or contentious of a choice. But I have made sure to replace that communication channel with other ways to get into a conversation with me if you want to talk about anything I’ve said.

I’ve built a little form for sending me tweets related to the post you’re reading (when you click the button it will direct you to Twitter, where you can further modify the tweet or choose to send it through), as well as providing post-specific links for sending a post to the newly launched CSSquirrel Facebook page, and lastly I’ve provided a permalink to each post in case you want to write your own blog post for a long-form reply to what I’ve said.

There’s been a lot of good conversations on this blog in the comment section. Some, like this thread of comments in response to a comic where I criticized a tweet of Divya Manian’s, were highly critical of what I’d said, giving me some insight to consider whether I’d been right in the first place. (To be honest, I’m still mulling over what I said and if I made a major overstep when trying to make my point.) At other times, the site has played host to lively debates, such as this thread about [insert W3C-related hijink here].

Those were good discussions. And I want to be part of more. I just think that the time has come to change the space in which part of those conversations appear.

Speaking of which, do you have any thoughts about what I’ve discussed? Check out the response options I’ve got listed below, and get back to me. I’d love to hear about other ways people have replaced comments with different social mechanisms, and what those experiences have been like.

It’s People!

Monday, August 20th, 2012
CSSquirrel #95: It's People

In addition to being a guest in today’s comic, Michael Sippey is the Director of Consumer Product at Twitter.

He’s also the author of a post over at the Twitter Developer Blog that you may have already heard about: Changes coming in Version 1.1 of the Twitter API.

In it, Michael reveals that Twitter is really tired of people using other (better) “traditional” Twitter clients instead of their own website and apps, and that they’re going to be making it a lot harder for those to exist in the future. Between changing Display Guidelines to Display Requirements, sharply limiting the amount of client tokens a client app can serve and requiring such client apps to go to Twitter to “work together”, it’s apparent that Twitter is continuing its campaign to shut “traditional” Twitter clients down.

I wish I could feign surprise, but the fact is that such ungrateful, brutish behavior has become the norm for social media companies. First they rely on third party developers to make their service more popular by extending functionality and drawing in users while the service is fragile and young. Then they steal those features for their native experience. Lastly they eventually shut down the third party clients to force their service’s users back into the native client so they can cram ads down their throats.

It’s the way of the web. It shouldn’t be, and I’d love to see some other model come to dominate the space, but at present I’m only ever shocked when a popular web-based service doesn’t screw over the partners that helped them get to where they are.

There’s a different level of dick behavior that I’d like to address, however. It’s how Twitter is using this dicking of their developer “partners” to further dick their users.

In his post, Michael encouraged developers to move away from the traditional client apps and towards other types of applications with the following chart:

This chart has four quadrants. The upper right one, which contains virtually any app that you, I or any other user of the Twitter service would typically use, is what they’d prefer developers to shy away from. The other three, which turn the users into products, are what they want to see more developer engagement with.

Let’s let that sink in. They want developers to focus on turning us into products.

This isn’t a shock. After all, ever since the advent of advertisements we users of a given service have been little more than eyeballs that can be sold in everything from newspapers to television networks that specialize in shows featuring orange midgets copulating in hot tubs.

Ultimately I’m aware that Twitter needs to make money. Which, when your whole service is letting people blather about the contents of their breakfast for free, is a bit of a challenge. So I get it (but don’t like it) when promoted tweets end up in my Twitter stream.

But to me there’s a stark difference between feeding themselves and encouraging an entire ecosystem to become a bunch of frenzied human-eating services that exist not to serve the user experience, but instead to transform users into a product for companies to exploit and consume.

Apparently “Director of Consumer Product” means exactly what it sounds like. It turns people into product.

I’ve been pondering (without any success) how web services that don’t sell products (whether physical like toilet paper or digital like MP3s) are supposed to make income without putting their users through the wood chipper and selling them on a platter to interested parties. I’m thinking that Kickstarter is pointing in the right direction (consider Penny Arcade’s Kickstarter project to get their ads off their site). But just because I don’t have a solution yet doesn’t mean that I like the status quo, and I think it’s a major step backwards in consumer relations for Twitter to be essentially forbidding its developers from building any product with their API that actually serves to us, instead of serving us up.

Am I quitting Twitter? No. Too much of my personal social ecosystem is currently on that platform, and for better or worse I’m going to continue to play the role of Internet chum for the circling marketing sharks until something better comes along (I know, I’m too late for a timely Shark Week reference). But when a better option does come along, there’s a good chance I’ll jump if it looks like it will get traction. And any plans I had on building any Twitter API-based projects are going the way of the dodo.

Bad form, Twitter.

Comic Update: Boring in Five Easy Steps

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Today’s comic, featuring Jeff Croft in a fictional scenario where he’s rebuilt into a duller, less spontaneous being by Jakob Nielsen after a tragic karaoke accident, is something of a lighthearted poke at the death of spontaneity in the name of… well, I’m not sure what, exactly. (It also guest stars Bruce Lawson as the HTML5 Doctor)

The sequence of events that inspired this micro-drama is as follows: Firstly, Jakob Nielsen decided to talk about iterative designs in tweets (or as he likes to dress them up: “stream-based postings”). He guides us through a process where in only five easy steps he has drained the blood from a sample tweet, leaving a dried husk that will rise in thirteen days to join the legions of humorless drones that find the design both fascinating and useful.

After this, Jeff Croft cuts through the meat of Jakob’s ‘findings’ with a tweet that probably did not require five iterations: “An article by Jacob Nielsen on how to take all the spontaneity and humaneness out of your tweets in five easy steps…

Granted, at least one iteration more might have helped in his case to get Jakob spelled right.

The fact is, Jeff hit it on the head. If you’re writing down your tweets and re-writing them repeatedly to maximize some sort of marketing message, you’re not tweeting. I’m not sure what you’re doing, but I’ll bet that most people that see the message can see what it is, canned artificial crap. You don’t have a medium of micro-messages just to waste all the time and effort of a proper e-mail or blog post on a single sentence. Spending that effort on the message not only is contrary to the purpose of the medium, it’s counterproductive when the end result is what Nielsen presents, complete with shouting-style caps, months in parentheses, and different wording to make it “punchier.”

I’m going to say Jakob Nielsen does not know what “punchier” actually means. If he did, might not look like a canary got stuck in a mid-90′s school administration newsletter.

Tweet how you like, but if you spend a half-hour at a time maximizing your tweets in some sort of business formula, don’t be surprised when people stop paying attention to your massaged marketing attempts.

Comic Update: Grilled Shark and Twitter

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Over the weekend I moved to a new apartment. After this, it was Memorial Day on Monday. As a result, this week’s comic is a day late, and accompanied by only a brief post.

It wasn’t my intent to discuss Twitter back to back. After all, there’s all sorts of important web development topics just ripe for plunder. But I couldn’t pass this one up.

Twitter is working on a TV show. No, really. Or working with people working on a show. Whatever. I can’t imagine how I’d react to hearing this in person from one of Twitter’s higher-ups if I worked with them, although today’s comic attempts to recreate such a scenario. However, both Eric Meyer and Jeff Croft managed to craft suitable tweets that sum things up fairly well, here and here (respectively).

I appreciate the tool that is Twitter. I’ve kept in contact with people met elsewhere thanks to it, met new people with similar interests over it, and made good use of it in keeping up to date on interesting information in my industry. I’m not really sure, though, that a 140-character micro-blog requires a televised show.

About the only way you could jump the shark more is, well, to be Fonzi.

Seriously, why is he water-skiing in a leather jacket AND the shortest shorts ever? If this was cool in the 70′s, I’m glad I was only 3 when they ended.